A Novel semisynthetic molecule Icaritin stimulates osteogenic differentiation and inhibits adipogenesis of mesenchymal stem cells

Hui Sheng*, Xue fei Rui, Chun Jun Sheng, Wen Jun Li, Xiao Yun Cheng, Navina Priya Jhummon, Yong Chun Yu, Shen Qu, Ge ZHANG, Ling Qin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Background We previously reported that the constitutional flavonoid glycosides derived from herb Epimedium (EF, composed of seven flavonoid compounds with common nuclear stem) exerted beneficial effects on the bone, including promoting bone formation and inhibiting bone marrow fat deposition. Recent in vivo study showed that Icaritin was a common metabolite of these constitutional flavonoid glycosides, indicating that Icaritin is a bioactive compound. The present study was designed to investigate whether Icaritin could promote osteogenic differentiation and suppress adipogenic differentiation of marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Methods Primary MSCs were harvested from adult mice and exposed to Icaritin to evaluate whether it could promote osteogenesis and suppress adipogenesis using the following assays: determination of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity and mineralization; mRNA expression of osteogenic differentiation marker Runx2; osteocalcin and bone sialoprotein (BSP) by RT-PCR; quantification of adipocyte-like cells by Oil Red O staining assay and mRNA expression for adipogenic differentiation markers peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ); adipocyte fatty acid binding protein (aP2) and lipoprotein lipase (LPL) by RT-PCR. For the underlying mechanism, glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK3β) and β-catenin were also explored by western blotting. Results Icaritin promoted osteogenic differentiation and maturation of MSCs as indicated by increased mRNA expression for Runx2, osteocalcin and BSP, and enhanced ALP activity and mineralization; Icaritin inhibited adipogenic differentiation, as indicated by decreased mRNA expression for PPARγ, LPL, aP2, and suppressed formation of adipocyte-like cells; Icaritin inactivated GSK3β and suppressed PPARγ expression when promoting osteogenesis and suppressing adipogenesis of MSCs. Conclusion This was the first study demonstrating that the novel semisynthetic molecule Icaritin could stimulate osteogenic differentiation and inhibit adipogenesis of MSCs, which was associated with the suppression of GSK3β and PPARγ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-789
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Medicine(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Adipogenesis
  • GSK3ß
  • Icaritin
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Osteogenesis
  • Osteoporosis


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